Ironically, and for all their riches in the stallion department, European racing jurisdictions have been in something of a slump for class among the older horse brigade for the past couple of seasons, Dubawi’s debonair Postponed and Galileo’s Minding excepted, and there’s hardly a standout three year old in sight. Meanwhile, as though to emphasise the great unpredictability of the sport, American racing has in the past two seasons paraded the world class likes of American Pharoah and the magnificent filly, Songbird (the latter still in training) to advertise its wares, while last Saturday at Saratoga, they may just have uncovered a freak in the league of some of the best horses of the past. While it’s always dangerous to judge a horse on one performance, all the numbers and the manner of Arrogate’s breath-taking victory in the time-celebrated Travers Stakes (Gr.1) suggests that he could be on the cusp of greatness.
As Lucas Marquadt points out, the striking visual impression of Arrogate’s 13 1/2-length riot in Saturday’s “mid-summer Derby”. was confirmed immediately by the time of the race, 1:59.36 which has been confirmed again after historically high speed figures were assigned to the track-record performance. “He looks like a superstar in the making”, said trainer Bob Baffert, who trains Arrogate for Juddmonte Farms. “I think the fans will remember watching a horse like this, because I know when I see performances like this, it’s very rare.”
Baffert isn’t exaggerating. Arrogate earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 122, second-best of the season behind the 123 Frosted (Tapit) earned in the GI Met Mile, and the highest Beyer for a race beyond a mile since Commentator won the 2005 GI Whitney Handicap with a 123 Beyer. Since the advent of Beyer Speed Figures, only two other 3-year-olds have earned higher numbers than Arrogate’s 122: Sunday Silence and Easy Goer. The pair both earned 124s in their epic GI Breeders Cup Classic 1-2 in 1989. And only two sophomores, Easy Goer once again, and the great Holy Bull, had matched the 122 figure. The latter did so in his 89 Belmont Stakes romp, while Holy Bull achieved his career best in the 04 Met Mile. That puts Arrogate into some exceptionally rare air. Arrogate earned a similarly impressive number on Jerry Brown’s Thoro-Graph figures, a -4 1/2. (On the Thoro-Graph sheets, the lower the number the better, so anything, say, south of a 0 would be considered an exceptionally strong figure.) How does Arrogate’s - 4 1/2 measure up? “We’ve been doing this for 30 years, and it’s one of the best 3-year-old figures we’ve ever given out,” said Brown. “And this is the fastest number we’ve ever given out in the Travers.” That, according to Brown, is impressive in its own right. “Historically, it takes a big figure to win the Travers, he explained. It’s generally the strongest straight 3-year-old race of the year, in terms of figures.”
“You’ll get an occasional big figure in the Haskell or in the Jim Dandy,” Brown continued, “The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes will occasionally get a big figure, but they’re pretty early in the year; it almost always takes a big figure to win the Travers. Going back 12, 13 years, it typically takes a -2 or so to win the race, which is a big number for a 3-year-old. Asked to compare Arrogate’s - 4 1/2 to other recent stars of the track, Brown said that last year, for instance, American Pharoah achieved a top figure of - 3 1/2. But Brown quickly added a caveat. “Arrogate’s performance was better than any individual figure American Pharaoh ran; however, American Pharaoh has 10 figures that are better than Arrogate’s second-best figure. American Pharaoh did nothing but run big figures.”
Editor’s note: One of the fascinations of this game for students of pedigrees, rests in the genetic largesse of the breed which has made its way to so many corners of the globe. Arrogate’s third dam is the outstanding race filly, Meadow Star (a grand specimen of a thoroughbred in her racing days, by the gigantic horse Meadowlake,) who won seven straight as a two year old including the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies (Gr.1) which clinched the two year old championship of America for the Florida-bred. Her mother was a daughter of the ubiquitous American stallion, In Reality, whose own sister Really A Star made her way to Summerhill as long ago as the autumn of 1988 following the Keeneland January Sale, which featured the dispersal of the multiple Eclipse award-winning breeder and silver magnate, Nelson Bunker Hunt. Really A Star’s Home Guard daughter, Starland, a competent filly of unfulfilled promise trained by Dennis Drier, produced for the farm the Black type performer, Paradise Alley (by Muhtafal) and the good looking race filly Starry Eyed (by National Emblem), already the dam of a Black type performer herself.
The family has produced for Summerhill and some of our successors, a string of female talents including the Group One performer Raise The Pace, (trained to five victories by James Goodman) and Fard’s Stakes-winning daughter, Hard To Get, who’s now found her way into Lee and Dino Scribante’s Piemonte Stud. It was the latter’s daughter Dover Beach, that launched the racing careers of Adriaan and Rika Van Vuuren, while for those who’ve lived in hope for an eternity, Ronnie Napier, Professor Len Konar, Jean Marc Ulcoq, Albert Rapp and Summerhill itself, the beneficial owners of Paradise Alley and Starry Eyed, at last their ship has come in.